Student Pursing Double-Major Says "Get Involved"

Although Samuel Elzinga is now close to graduation — double majoring in political science and integrated studies, with emphases in national security studies and Russian studies — he admits he wasn’t always the most dedicated student. “In 2013 my parents divorced, and with the new dynamics in my personal life, I decided education was not for me,” he said. “Of course, this was not an appropriate response for something manageable, but because I decided this early on into my high school career, my grades suffered while I studied. The turnaround came when I realized I was graduating high school, and with that, I needed a plan for what would happen after.” 

When applying to colleges, Elzinga wasn’t sure what kind of career he wanted to pursue — but his drive to explore different options put UVU at the top of his list. “What attracted me to UVU was the opportunity to take classes that were both in the trades and in courses traditionally taught at a university. I liked that versatility, especially because [when I was looking at colleges] I was unsure of what I wanted to do specifically.” 

Elzinga initially wanted to study music education or economics but says a conversation with academic advisor John MacFarlane changed his mind. He rediscovered his passion for central Asia and the former Soviet Union while studying with Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev. As he continued to progress through his education, he found more and more topics that he was passionate about. He eventually decided to combine his interests into an integrated studies degree — focused on Russian studies and national security studies — while at the same time majoring in political science.  

“I’ve really enjoyed both my degrees at UVU,” said Elzinga. “Political science has given me the analytical tools to better understand international relations, and my integrated studies degree has allowed me to design a degree I've really enjoyed. Both of these degree programs are on the smaller side, which has allowed me to get to know professors really well. The professors here at UVU are really focused on student success and development, which is one of my personal favorite parts of my programs. I wouldn't trade my experience at UVU for anything.”    

In addition to pursuing an ambitious double major, Elzinga has been extremely active outside the classroom. He  has published several articles relating to ethnic conflict in the former Soviet Union, terrorism, national security, and sustainable mountain development. He’s also presented at the United Nations multiple times, the first of which being at just 18 years old. Just before the pandemic, Elzinga was selected as a finalist for the prestigious Truman Scholarship, a memorial scholarship created by President Harry S. Truman specifically for those pursuing careers as public service leaders. 

After he graduates in May, Elzinga plans to attend graduate school — after his wife finishes her own degree. He’s not entirely sure what the future holds but says that he could see himself either starting a job with the federal government or entering his first year of a Ph.D. program.  

To his fellow UVU students, Elzinga recommends getting involved. “There are all kinds of clubs and programs on campus that you never know about if you just go to class and go home. I found the national security program through an event I stumbled into, and now it’s an integral part of my major. College is what you make of it, so enjoy it and grab it by the horns.”